Monday, October 01, 2007

Poetry Revision Part 2

I am revisiting the "revision" subject of my earlier post with a few thoughts.

For my own part, I have been hanging on to my own work longer lately. I think there is value in revisiting work after a bit of a break from it. I read where the Roman poet Horace believed one should wait nine years. I'm not sure you can call any specific period of time extreme in the context of a single piece of work, but I'm not planning any such length as a matter of personal procedure. I do believe that we create a distance from the work when we put it away and bring it back out later. That distance can improve our perception of what we are saying.

In an article written by Nina Shengold, titled Perennial Voyager - John Ashbery at Home, Ashbery speaks of endless revisions in his younger days. Today, he days, " If I'm not pleased with something, I tend to discard it rather than reworking it to death." I'm a huge Ashbery fan, but I don't see myself trashing a lot of stuff... or do I?

If one looks though my journals, there are quite a few instances where I have something with a squiggly sort of strike through the text. I suppose these are throw-aways, though I haven't thought much about them in that context. There are certainly many other things I've started that are not completed poems yet, I have not given them the disapproving strike through. These I will on occasion go back to and rework. I did one this weekend, which I started last May. There are however, times when I will indeed abandon a piece of writing that I believe has failed the very basic level of having viability. Then I have tons of material that are like little unborns already on life support... while I've thinking of a cure.

I would of course like to believe that I could create successfully without revision. I won't however kid myself on this point. Few of us are John Ashbery's. Still, in a way, what he is doing is revision by elimination. With the number of successfully completed books he has, I'm sure he is not concerned with the quantity of work he is producing, even at his age.

Write, patience, reading, rewriting, patience, writing, reading..... it is all a part of the process.
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